The purpose of this essay is to explain the relevance of sovereign states in the contemporary world. The Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice clearly illustrate the territorial supremacy of the sovereign state and non-intervention in Article 2 (1), whereby "the Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members", and in Article 2 (7) whereby the United Nations shall not "intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state" (United Nations, 1997, p4-5). However, due to the increase complexity of international political and economic system, the sovereignty of states has been challenged and their authority delimited.
It is argued by Pinto (1999, p1) that sovereign states emerged in Europe by the 16th century as a new and strong political entity with the centralised monarchies of England, Spain, France, and Portugal. Before that time, Europe - in the Middle Ages - contained different political entities with a strong base of hierarchical, parallel religious or secular concepts of subordination and dependence, such as the Italian city-states and the Holy Roman Empire. It was the Peace Treaties of Westphalia of 1648 at the end of the Thirty Years' War which marked the birth of the state system and acknowledged the individual sovereignty of the empire's states (Schreuer, 1999; p1). After the Peace of Westphalia, two legal rules of "immunity from jurisdiction" and "immunity of state agencies" were taken to uphold the national sovereignty in international affairs (Held, McGrew, Glodblatt & Perration, 1999; pp38). Colonialism was also a part of this movement. The European political structure was retained in some countries in Asia and Africa after the decolonisation. Since the Second World War, the sovereign state as a primary international political actor became the universal standard (Schreuer; 1999; p1).